Microbial Influence on the Performance of Subsurface, Salt-Based Radioactive Waste Repositories

An Evaluation Based on Microbial Ecology, Bioenergetics and Projected Repository Conditions

Nuclear Energy Agency

For the past several decades, the Nuclear Energy Agency Salt Club has been supporting and overseeing the characterisation of rock salt as a potential host rock for deep geological repositories. This extensive evaluation of deep geological settings is aimed at determining – through a multidisciplinary approach – whether specific sites are suitable for radioactive waste disposal. Studying the microbiology of granite, basalt, tuff, and clay formations in both Europe and the United States has been an important part of this investigation, and much has been learnt about the potential influence of microorganisms on repository performance, as well as about deep subsurface microbiology in general. Some uncertainty remains, however, around the effects of microorganisms on salt-based repository performance. Using available information on the microbial ecology of hypersaline environments, the bioenergetics of survival under high ionic strength conditions and studies related to repository microbiology, this report summarises the potential role of microorganisms in salt-based radioactive waste repositories.

English